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Not So MMO: Dead Star Review - Making Its Mark in the MOBA Genre

By Tiffany Bechdel on June 03, 2016 | General Articles | Comments

Dead Star Review - Making Its Mark in the MOBA Genre

Another day, another MOBA. That is the general tone of the gaming industry these days, with a new “must-play” MOBA being released seemingly every other day. In such an oversaturated environment, it is difficult to stand out amongst the crowd or even make a mark. However, Dead Star; a top-down, twin stick PvP arcade shooter created by Armature, has attempted to do just that. With a space theme and an old school arcade feel, has Dead Star managed to shine bright or is this game true to its name and really just another dead star?

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Taking place in a galactic prison, players new to Dead Star will find themselves in the role of a prisoner/pilot. The prison, long abandoned by the guards, is set near a star that is very close to going supernova and as these things tend to do; destroying all in its path including the prison you currently call home. Of course, most people don’t want to die a fiery (albeit quick) death, so you and your fellow prisoners forge out into the solar system where you duke it out in space for scraps and the hope of escaping certain doom. While this storyline certainly sets the tone for the space theme the game is going for, it leaves much to be desired in originality and is peppered with various flaws that are hard to overlook.

The storyline is introduced in a serious of tutorials that are the only single player experience in the game, not surprising in this type of game, but still rather disappointing. Here the new player is introduced to the basics of Dead Star and little else, which can leave you at a slight disadvantage as you begin the game. However, with such a familiar setup, this basic knowledge is more than enough to at least get the ball rolling. With predictable 5v5 or 10v10 matches where you capture enemy bases, secure outposts, select new abilities and amp up the defenses of your base, Dead Star is just your stock standard every day MOBA. Nothing new to see here ladies and gentleman, move along.

Even though Dead Star uses the standard MOBA setup, it does have some interesting differences that make it deserving of a second look. For example, in this game you won’t be taking on the role of a just another character. Instead, you will be embracing the space theme in full and will be jetting around the battlefield in one nine ships. Each ship has its own strengths and weaknesses with some that are heavy hitters, others that are fast but weak, and others that are excellent at collecting the needed resources to make your team the kings of your portion of the solar system.

Now nine ships may not seem like it provides you with very many, especially considering other MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm that hosts 50 plus characters with even more on the horizon. However, despite having only nine ships, Dead Star allows you to customize each one with a variety of loadouts, opening up various choices for each ship. This in turn gives the ship a very different feel depending on which you chose. In this way, nine ships feel like many more, giving players the opportunity to find a ship that fits their personal playstyle almost perfectly.  Even better, almost every ship is well balanced against the others, meaning you should never feel utterly useless while jetting around the map.

Gameplay in Dead Star can feel a little sluggish, especially if you happen to be on the losing team. While there seems to be plenty to do with gathering resources, leveling up Outposts, and earning XP to improve your ship, all of these things are essentially accomplished by firing away at rocks which can start to feel a bit tedious. Add into the mix the long stretches of empty space between outposts and the typical 15 to 20-minute match can feel like an eternity and make you wish that the dying star would go supernova and end things.  

Despite the lack of pizzazz in the gameplay itself, Dead Star has a glorious feel of old-school gaming about it bringing about a feeling of nostalgia that almost makes up for the long matches and lack of new ideas. Stepping into the game feels like stepping back in time into a classic arcade shooter like Asteroids. This feel is accentuated by the art style which feels like an updated and more polished version of many games from the early 80’s.

While Dead Star has its flaws, it isn’t a bad game overall as long as you aren’t expecting anything more than just another MOBA. While the addition of ships and a classic feel to the game add a feeling of freshness, the game really is one we have all played before. With that being said, the basics of combat and ship balance in this game are done extraordinarily well making the game feel worth playing. Combine this with a slight addictive quality and Dead Star will certainly grow on you, so if you are a shoot ‘em up fan looking for a well-priced game to add to your collection; Dead Star is definitely worth a go.


Gameplay: 7 | A classic MOBA. Dead Star offers very little that hasn’t been seen in this game genre before.  However, with the introduction of ships, various maps, and a dash of old-school gaming feel; the game manages to pull you in and keep you interested. While it will never be the king of MOBAs, it does have replay value and is great for players looking for an easy-to-learn gaming experience.

Visuals and Sound: 8 | While this can be very subjective, the visuals in Dead Star are possibly one of the best things about the game. While younger gamers may not appreciate the understated old-school art style, those of us who remember classic arcade games will be thrilled. The visuals in this game manage to paint a beautiful background for the game, while giving all who play a sense of nostalgia that make this game worth the money. Unfortunately, the sound track is rather repetitive, a part of the classic feel we all could have done without.

Polish: 7 | Dead Star has only been out for a fairly short time, however, the game seems to be working as intended. The game has balance, new players easily can fit into the mix, and there seem to be a minimal amount of bugs inside the game. With that being said, small items like of real rewards and an issue with aiming in the PS4 version of the game could certainly use some tweaking.

Longevity: 7 | With the ability to customize ships, various random maps, and a surprising addictive quality, you will likely find yourself coming back to Dead Star time and time again.

Value: 8 | With a price tag of just $19.99, Dead Star is well worth the price. While the game has some flaws, you likely won’t find yourself regretting dishing out that 20-dollar bill.


Final Score: 7.4


Pros

  • Beautiful Old-School Art
  • Balanced Gameplay
  • Easy-to-Learn

Cons

  • Long Matches
  • Lack of Meaningful Rewards